The blue flicker of an HUD roused Brom from a haze he couldn’t remember slipping into, blinking oxygen reserve figures and atmospheric radiation levels blaring into his waking vision. His eyes fluttered into consciousness but the invasive illumination kept him from making out just where he was. Within a bleary moment Brom felt his body drift slightly forward yet anchored at his feet. The warmth of his breath hit his helmet’s interior and splashed back over his face. Instinctively he reached out to find his movements cumbersome and labored by a jump suit. His feet were tightly bound to whatever surface he was standing on by magnetically locked boots, his body swaying from his sudden reeling but kept place. Panic crept into him, fogging his visor with each sporadic breath. An almost instinctual military bearing pulled the mercenary from getting lost in hysteria.
You’re in space, Brom. Don’t panic and waste your air, he thought, looking over the numbers flashing in front of his face. It wasn’t all too bad, he had two hours left. It was likely if he was in space there would be others close by, that is unless he was pushed out an airlock. Immediately Kardde came to mind, his merc team lead, a crass man that made Brom feel like he was only around because he could patch up the team after a fight. Brom was highly skilled and had saved his teammates many of times, Karrde included, but he had a habit of questioning Kardde’s bravado and lack of morals. Karrde never liked being opposed, even if it made better sense.
He wouldn’t waste a perfectly good suit to get rid of me, Brom assured himself. How the hell did I get here?
Last thing he could remember was being on the Levio, Kardde’s ship. Brom looked over his surroundings starting at his feet. Rudimentary magnetic boots were fixed to a long stretch of uniformed alloy metal twenty yards long and jaggedly sundered at its edges. His vision wasn’t spinning rapidly so he wasn’t rotating quickly, but slowly the edge of his view drifted over an expanse of space cluttered with the wreckage of countless ships. Blast marks charred what was left of military battle cruisers, half melted skeletons that lay forgotten in space. The graveyard was unusually illuminated and as Brom rotated he saw a nebulous gas field lit from a plasmic body burning deep within. Chromatic clouds cast star light into the lifeless debris field, a dichotomous divide of brilliance and dead metal.
Checking the radiation readings Brom wasn’t getting doused from the gas field so much as the artificial levels of the wreckage. That meant he wasn’t in a ship graveyard, he was in the site of an old space battle. From the looks of the debris and the seemingly endless amount of it the battle must have been catastrophic to all sides. He hoped there was at least a salvage team somewhere near the wreckage, there was too much material for there not to be. Activating his distress signal with a quick depression of his armband overlay, Brom began to broadcast his rescue message.
“This is Brom Kessel of the independent Levio, I am isolated and in need of rescue. Please respond.”
Nothing but the intermittent crackle of his receiving equipment answered back. Deciding his signal could possibly have interference from the debris, Brom crouched and released himself with a forceful push just at the right moment he disengaged his mag-boots. With a gentle roll of his feet he gave himself enough rotation as he launched into free space to swing his feet forward. It was a technique all Interstellar Para-rescue Jumpers had to learn, where it was likely they would conduct zero-G ops either for combat or for rescue. The next piece of debris was two hundred meters away so his rotation completed and he began to tumble. Training kicked in again. He took note of a frigate sized vessel that had been blasted in half, that would be his reference. Brom controlled his breathing and watched for the split frigate until he began to see the next piece of debris creep up to blot out his vision. His landing wasn’t perfect, but as his body spun into the side of the wreckage he kicked his foot out and engaged the mag-boot. He managed to lock one foot and pushed back after his body curled forward from his momentum. He braced himself, looked for another point of travel and thrust himself into space again.
It wasn’t until several more jumps into the debris field Brom began to hear a faint static filter into his helmet. He continued to make his way further in, listening as the signal became stronger until he could finally make the inaudible pattern of someone talking. His fingers and feet were beginning to go numb as he continued further into the debris field and he cursed Kardde for getting such a cheap suit. Kardde or whoever left him out here to die.
“-If you opened your eyes to see. The strands are all there, all weaved together. Pluck your strand and watch the stars shake,” a mumbling voice crackled in his headset.
“Hello? This is Brom Kessel, I’m in need of rescue!”
“It comes from the place where the black stars hang. Singing its dirge as it swallows whole. Swallows as the stars quake.”
What hell is going on?
“I’m in need of rescue, can you triangulate my position?”
“You are going to die cold and alone, Brom.”
A sudden feedback pierced Brom’s hearing and something massive stirred in the distance. Wincing and doubling over from the violent cacophony Brom scrambled to turn his receiver off while something in the corner of his eye began to oscillate and grow. Standing tall, Brom shifted over to see something impossible in the field. Kilometers away a colossal creature snaked through space, a great wyrm of fleshy matter covered with bulbous, terrible eyes and tumorous growths. The space around it’s form shivered as if in a heat mirage, as if it was stirring the lifeless space itself. Impossibly huge, its gaping maw of endless circles of teeth swept the wreckage, swallowing huge swathes of debris and as it moved straight for Brom.
The mercenary picked a direction away from the monster’s path and jumped with all his strength, not caring where to land. Drifting what was upward from the terrible being, Brom realized he was going too slow. It’s mouth alone must have been almost a kilometer wide, shrugging of shipwrecks as if they were leaves in water. It was going to devour him. The beast closed its maw and opened it again, bellowing out an unfathomable roar that shook everything in the debris field. As it closed in Brom lost track of the edge of its mouth, instead only seeing the consuming void he was about to be swallowed into. His receiving headset crackled to life as the starlight of the gas field faded away.
“Cold and alone.”
Brom stirred from his bunk with a sharp cry, jumping upward and knocking a datapad off his chest to clatter on the metal floor. The horrible, alien bellow and the groan of shredded metal was replaced with the dull hum of the Levio, but the coldness of space was still in the droplets of sweat covering the mercenary’s body. Brom was confused, he rarely had nightmares and when he did there was always something that told him he was in the dreamscape. His people called it the window of Alar, the faint veil that kept you from drifting over to the dream world of the Gods. Brom wiped his forehead and slicked his hair back, exhaling as his stomach began to rumble. He kicked himself quickly from his bed and read the biometric data in his vision. His caloric deficit was larger than normal, heart rate still high along with blood pressure. The nightmare actually took something out of him.
He slowly walked to one of his lockers, his bare soles and the cool sweat raising his skin. Brom grabbed at stack of nutrient dense protein bars and began to chew into one of the bland snacks, prepping a smoothie to supplement it. That was the problem with the first generation IPJ augmentation program, more substantial upgrades but with a price. Newer jumpers weren’t as fast or as strong, but they didn’t have to pay for it either. With an idle sigh Brom prepared his meal, realizing it was only one of three things in his room; guns, food and archaic paper books. I tried to convince himself that was all he needed to spend money on anyways.
“Brom,” Karrde’s digitized voice erupted from the wall intercom in his room, “get your pretty boy ass in here. It’s show time, we need to go over a battle plan.”
“Fuck off,” Brom said to no one. He took another bland bite and started to get dressed.